2016-08-11 / Faith Community

Rabbi Jagolinzer Steps Down

By James Merolla

After more than four decades, Rabbi Marc S. Jagolinzer will retire from Temple Shalom.

An award-winning educator, college teacher, international speaker, and well-regarded religious leader in the state, the man who has led Temple Shalom since President Nixon resigned said it was time “for a new direction.”

A native Rhode Islander, Jagolinzer came to Temple Shalom as a student rabbi in 1974. Still a young man, the rabbi’s first test came when an arsonist burned down the Temple on Columbus Day of that year.

A year later, amid scrambling for a new location and stability, Jagolinzer was asked to become the full-time rabbi, a position he has held until now.

In addition to his duties as spiritual leader and teacher, Jagolinzer has been an active community and interfaith leader.

He is currently president of the Aquidneck Island Clergy Association, a position he said he intends to continue.

A faculty member at the University of Rhode Island, where he teaches Hebrew and philosophy, Jagolinzer is also an instructor at Salve Regina University, a position he will continue. Another duty he will maintain is his role as Jewish Chaplain at Roger Williams University and Johnson and Wales University.

Jagolinzer has received numerous awards. He is the recipient of the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island’s prestigious “Never Again” Award. He was the first rabbi to preach from the high pulpit of the 250-year-old Trinity Church in Newport. The rabbi was honored at the 50th annual meeting of the National Conference for Community and Justice as a recipient of The Unsung Hero Award for his generosity of time, talent and spirit, as well as his commitment to social justice.

“It’s been 41 years,” Rabbi Jagolinzer told Newport This Week. “They have been very challenging and rewarding years.”

The rabbi dealt with a major flood last winter when broken pipes seriously damaged the temple. “When I walked in on the 18th of February, I was knee-deep in water,” said the rabbi.

The building was unusable from that moment until Friday, Aug. 12, when the temple hopes to hold services. Because of a longstanding partnership with United Congregational Church in Middletown, just three blocks from the temple, Pastor Joe Tripp allowed services to be held there for the past six months.

“The flood obviously devastated the building, but regarding my decision, that was brought about by a great deal of prayer, introspection, and thought,” Jagolinzer said. “I always said that as long as I feel challenged by the congregation, and the congregation felt challenged by me, we would work together. But that has been diminished. There are people who are going to be very upset by this. But, perhaps, there are people in the congregation who want us to go in different directions and I’m not sure I’m the one to take them in these different directions.

“I’d rather retire, and feel good about what I’ve done, and wish the congregation the very best,” he added. “Cantor Frederick Scheff is taking over and I left the congregation in good hands.”

Scheff has been music director at Temple Shalom since 1995. He is scheduled to lead the service on Friday.

The Providence native intends to stay in this area. Though retirement connotes an ending, Jagolinzer will face new beginnings and transitions, continuing to conduct “the life cycle” events – births, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and other milestones. Jagolinzer and his wife Barbara (Richman) are parents of three children, Charles, Sarah and Jonathan, and have three grandchildren on the way.

“I feel I will continue to be a presence in the community, writing, speaking. I’m at peace with my decision,” the rabbi said. “There will be plenty to do.”

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